CD and DVD reading issues with Macs

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Compact Disc failures and their reasons on a Mac

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Numerous people have complained about CDs and DVDs reading and writing on Macs. Often it is because they don't realize how CDs differ on many Mac drives. The biggest issue often arises because one doesn't follow this Apple knowledgebase article

After that these concerns have been noted on various boards:

1. Use of sticky labels on discs. Buy discs that come in a jewelcase, and use the inserts for the jewelcase to indicate the contents of the disc.

2. Use of ink on the label of the disc. It can affect the reflectivity of the disc. See point 1 for avoiding this issue.

3. Burning disc at maximum speed for the drive. Some drives are slightly out of sync and can't read from the maximum burn speed.

4. Buying disc on a spindle. Unfortunately this allows discs sometimes to scratch each other. See point 1.

5. CDs are best made by Verbatim, Kodak, Imation, or Sony.

6. DVDs are best made by Ritek, Verbatim, and Taiyo-Yuden.

7. Discs that have non-standard formatting. UDF and Joliet are less standardized than ISO-9660. A few discs have special movie extra computer addon software that is only playable via special software. Available both for 10.7 Intel and later, and 10.4 and 10.5 PowerPC, Taffysoft's UDF Media Reader will open the directory tree of UDF trees which you can then play back the Video_TS files on VLC. Unknown if it works with 10.6. If you can find someone still selling, Software Architects ReadDVDMac (the company folded in 2012), it can handle some UDF and Joliet formats on 10.5 PowerPC and Intel.

Interactual's Player plays some of the extra content that the built-in Mac software can not. For other software, a virtualization solution may be necessary.

8. Dirt on lens. If your machine is in warranty, have the drive serviced to verify dirt didn't get on lens. If it is out of warranty, find a safe to use lens cleaner for notebook optical drives.

Issues have cropped up where ejecting the disc becomes difficult. For that I've written a short script called Eject Disc

9. Sometimes discs eject as soon as they are inserted. If the reasons are not the ones above, the most common reason is either a dead PRAM battery, or if the machine is under 4 years old, a need to zap the PRAM. Machines older than 4 years old that you don't want to damage, or know how to take apart, you can try resetting the SMC. Note resetting the SMC is not as effective as resetting the PRAM or replacing the PRAM battery or capacitor, but it is something that can help in the short run until can replace it.

10. Bluray discs are not Mac readable by default. See this user tip if you have a Bluray disc.

11. Sony Rootkit scandal - Sony/BMG was known to install a rootkit affecting optical drives ranging from computer to even possibly automobile optical drives, making future disks that didn't conform to Sony's copyright, unreadable by those drives. Only by attaching an external optical drive, or replacing the optical drive, was it possible to read those discs again. Personally I've seen Mac OS X 10.6.8 able to read discs on the same machine that 10.9.2 could not, and the same disc was rented from Netflix. It suggests that 10.6.8 was less apt to look at certain copy/protection mechanisms as well. Windows 7 on the same machine with Parallels virtualization didn't work either. 10.6.8 Server may work, but I have not tried. There is this solution for installing 10.6 Server on machines that were released after July 20, 2011 that may work to resolve the issue without buying a new optical drive. Note MacBook Pros were not reconfigured until October 2011, and those ones may be the earliest MacBook Pro that can't install 10.6 system specific discs from AppleCare. Same with iMac and Mac Pro their models were refreshed at later date according to Everymac. Only MacBook Air and Mac Mini were released on July 20, 2011 with a new release. Additional experience has verified CDs that don't work in Mac OS X 10.7 or above that simply eject as soon as they are put in, work fine in 10.6.8 on the same Mac.